Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo is the surprise face in the All Blacks 31-man squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The final 31 has been named, Gregor Paul and Patrick McKendry explain and expole the selectors thinking, Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo is the surprise face in the All Blacks 31-man squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Naholo looked like a longshot to make the squad after suffering a cracked tibia on his All Blacks debut against Argentina, but a quick recovery aided by traditional Fijian medicine has helped him earn a spot on the plane to England.

Naholo has been joined in the squad by fellow electric winger Nehe Milner-Skudder, whose excellent performances in the Rugby Championship demanded inclusion.

However, the news wasn't as fortunate for Charles Piutau, Israel Dagg and Cory Jane, all who missed out on selection in the high-quality fight for spots in the backline.


Another player who can be considered unlucky to not have been given a ticket is Lima Sopoaga, who was beaten out by the versatility of Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade, with the duo potentially set to cover fullback as well as provide back-up to Dan Carter. Meanwhile, Tawera Kerr-Barlow will travel as the third halfback behind Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara.

In the forwards, Charlie Faumuina edged out Nepo Laulala to travel along with four other props, Codie Taylor snagged the third hooking role and both Liam Messam and Victor Vito were named in the squad as the selectors decided to take just three specialist locks.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said: "The selectors would like to congratulate all those players selected for the Rugby World Cup squad. It's a huge honour to represent your country on the international stage. It's the pinnacle for any New Zealand rugby player and we know the players and their families will be immensely proud of what they have achieved, as are we.

All Blacks Head coach Steve Hansen says "We can't win this World Cup by having something ordinary - we have to bring something different and he brings that."It's apparent, then, that the All Blacks are prepared to inject youth and inexperience into the mix once they get to England. They want to use their experienced core to blunt opponents, the unknown components such as Naholo, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Malakai Fekitoa to cut through them.

"Conversely, we know that there are some players who are disappointed. We are a tight-knit family and it's always difficult when players miss out. Those players did everything asked of them and the selections are more a reflection of the player depth that we have, and the mix of players required to effectively manage a 31-strong squad at what is a unique tournament with a unique set of replacement player rules.

"I'm sure it won't be the last time a lot of the players who have missed out play for the All Blacks. As we have seen in previous Rugby World Cups, anything can happen with injuries, and we want those players to be ready to step in if needed.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen explains how and why the 2015 Rugby World squad was picked, Hansen made the point that to win the World Cup, the All Blacks would have to offer the extraordinary. That they couldn't rely on vanilla - it won't be enough.

"To the fans I would like to say: our attitude going into this Rugby World Cup is not a case of expecting it, but one of making it happen. The Cup isn't ours. We are not defenders; like everyone else, we are contenders. We have to earn the right to win it through world-class performances.

"In doing so, we have to do something that no-one has ever done before. But that is a hugely exciting challenge and one I believe the team will rise to. With this in mind, we believe we have selected players with the right mix of experience, x-factor, determination and mental strength. This is an exciting and talented group of players who are looking to do something that hasn't been done before, and make New Zealanders proud."

The 2015 Rugby World Cup kicks off in 19 days time.


All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad:

Props: Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks
Hookers: Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor
Locks: Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano
Loose Forwards: Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw (c), Sam Cane, Kieran Read, Victor Vito
Halfbacks: Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow
First-Fives: Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade
Midfield Backs: Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa
Outside Backs: Waisake Naholo, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Ben Smith

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